Category Archives: Youth Matters

British Council commissioned a research on Youth Leadership and Global Citizenship Initiatives, conducted by Saarthak Development and Business Solutions, mapped experience of programmes engaged in development of youth in the context of global citizenship and leadership. The research findings revealed that youth leadership and citizenship concerns are being addressed in some measure by the gamut of respondents, and indicate a range of successful paradigms for youth engagement. However, they also bring forth concerns on the scale and nature of youth engagement.

Since the study only comprised a diverse range of organisations working on youth development, there arose a need to find out what the youth thinks and what could be an effective youth engagement platform that increases ownership and encourages participation. So, in order to put forth the opinions of the youth we are working closely with Youth Ki Awaaz, one of India’s largest online platform for young people to speak up on issues, and know from young people how we can design programs that make them a more integral part of them at its very core, and help young people to have their say on various opportunities, ideas and concerns.

Over the next 8 weeks, we along with Youth Ki Awaaz will be organising discussions and debates to know what young people think and what they want.

India deserves a better National Youth Policy

As a citizen of the country I was amused to know that my government has a policy relevant to the youth – National Youth Policy of India. Naturally, I was intrigued to know more about it. To start with, I did a Google research on the policy. The results were varied and primarily related to the media coverage of unveiling of the NYP by Minister Ajay Maken a year back. There were few results about the change in the draft of the policy or related news. This was not to say that I couldn’t obtain a copy of the NYP 2012 from the Youth Affairs and Sports ministry website.

When you read the NYP 2012, in the very initial pages (it is just 27 page long policy) you will notice that it is a bit progressive as it acknowledges youth with diverse background and does not consider youth of the nation as a homogenous group. It clearly divides youth in three age brackets- 16 to 21 years, 21 to 25 years and 26 to 30 years. The earlier version broadly considered people in the age group of 13 to 35 years as youth- in some parts of the country father and son- both- could be part of the same ‘youth’-ful group. This is not the case in the present draft and it clearly acknowledges that people from different age groups have different problems to which the ministry needs to cater. It also acknowledges that urban youth has different needs when compared to rural youth, and similarly tribal youth will have different needs from the other two brackets. But that’s all it has to offer. There are hardly proper implementation policies suggested by the makers of NYP 2012.

It is important to note that although this policy states that it is consistent with other national policies and plans, it is difficult to believe as no other ministry recognises youth in the same manner. This policy does no good for the same as it hardly suggests any concrete plan to convey its fundamental values to other ministries. It has a few general ‘instructions’ but no plans. How do we expect the other ministries to treat the youth in a better way if they do not even acknowledge the soul of NYP 2012? We cannot have a good future with such oxymoron in the system.

Interestingly the ‘Thrust Areas’ section of the policy picks few interesting points but is not able to suggest proper implementation policy. For instance in section 7.1- titled ‘Promotion of National Values, Social Harmony and National Unity’-, it acknowledges that it is important to instil a feeling of security among people from different religious and social background. But in the ‘Policy Intervention’ section of the same it has practically no suggestion to make! It says,

Policy interventions

a)      Initiate affirmative and positive action to ensure that our cherished national values are regularly fostered in all young people, especially among members of the large youth volunteer force working under the aegis of leading youth development agencies of the country.

b)      Take appropriate initiatives to prepare young people as crusaders of these values that are crucial not only for national harmony but also for instilling national identity. While macro-level action can set out broad policies and directions, it needs to be recognised that local level action can bring in better and more enduring results. Youth clubs and large volunteer force available with the youth development agencies can play a pivotal role in this endeavour.

With due respect to the makers of the policy, I want to ask one word question for both ‘a’ and ‘b’ of Policy Intervention: “How?”

Can using words like ‘initiate’ and ‘appropriate initiatives’ address serious issues of social inclusion, which also includes issues like ghettoization of different communities? How can one bring a young person from a ghetto area to the mainstream? It suggests ‘Youth Clubs’ can play a pivotal role. Shall I not consider this solution extremely ‘broad’ in its approach?

A proper solution demands proper research, which this policy lacks. For the same point it should have a detailed plan for different ministries (Ministry of Minority Affairs, Ministry of Tribal Affairs et cetera) to ‘initiate’ proper plans for the youth to join the mainstream. We cannot expect such a huge task to happen in vacuum, without the support of other ministries.

Another observation which one makes is for the focus areas it acknowledges. The NYP 2012 acknowledges, primarily, skill development and sports as its focus area. Not that I do not support sports, but I do not see any other more prominent issues given proper focus in the policy, although it talks about all the key issues concerning the youth of the country. But it is only to cover them for the heck of covering them as must be the customs of policy formations.

The policy, it seems, was made in haste. As a young citizen of the country I not only demand but deserve a better policy. I do not need 27 pages of theory alien to me. I need plans for my brethren across the country. I need a proper plan for Raju whom I met only once at my native village. I need a proper policy for Chotu and Aarif whom I have met numerous times. It’s high time we have issue driven policies in the country.

An, by the way, does any one of you know why the Youth Affairs minister has to be the Sports minister as well? Let me know if you have an answer.

Post By: Nihal Parashar

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Deconstructing the focus of the National Youth Policy

National  Youth Policy of India is supposed to provide guidelines to different ministries and official bodies to initiate a process of inclusion of youth of the country from varied backgrounds to mainstream. Larger question which lies in front of us is if it has been able to do so? But before analysing its implementation we must also analyse the focus of the Policy.

The policy starts with a quote from Swami Vivekanand. The historic quote from one of Swami’s many lectures goes like this,

“Young men, my hope is in you. Will you respond to the call of your nation? Each one of you has a glorious future if you dare believe me. Have a tremendous faith in yourselves, like the faith I had when I was a child, and which I am working out now. Have that faith, each one of you, in yourself—that eternal power is lodged in every soul—and you will revive the whole of the country.”

This quote addresses the ‘men’ of the country, but shouldn’t it also be addressing  the needs of women and the third gender of the country. Swami Vivekanand has his hope in the young men whom he rhetorically asks to respond to the ‘call of nation’. As a matter of fact, he spoke decades back in a different context. Quoting him here is certainly out of context. One cannot start a policy on youth with reference to men alone.

When we look at the undercurrents of the policy, we find the focus area of the policy is concentrated around skill development and sports. It talks about other focus areas too, but is unable to suggest proper policy intervention. For instance in section 7, titled Thrust Areas, it talks about various issues of grave concern. Section 7.9 talks about the evil practices in the society. It goes like this,

7.9 Social justice and action against unhealthy social practices

a) There exist certain unhealthy social practices like dowry child marriage, female infanticide and honour killings and decisions by Khap Panchayats which need to be addressed.

Policy intervention

a)      The task of rooting out long-embedded unhealthy social practices from the community requires concerted local action through a sustained programme of education of the community people and dialogue with leaders and elders. The role of voluntary organisations working in the community and officials of various related departments is also crucial and should be adhered to.

This section talks about serious issues which require proper planning and strong will to ensure implementation. But the policy sums up the intervention in just two sentences. The mention of voluntary organisations working in the community is too broad to give a crucial role to tackle the problem. These are deep-rooted problems that require an analysis to suggest a proper implementation policy for the same. It could have suggested a plan of creating its own body for the purpose or by creating a system which involves other ministries as well. This will certainly require hard work on part of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, but complex problems require solutions that are practical.

India’s youth face numerous problems and education is a major concern. The age bracket of 16 to 30 years comprises of almost all the matriculation students, intermediate students, graduation and higher studies students. The policy does not discuss about the students in a detailed manner. There is a mention about the education scenario in the country, but with no proper planning. Given the dropout rates in school and colleges across the country it was important to have a detailed plan to seek assistance of relevant ministry to minimise the dropout rate of young students. For this proper budgeting is required. Infrastructure of academic institutions is of a major concern as well. NYP needs to have a detailed plan for the same as well.

It is surprising that the policy never discusses budgetary allocation for various plans it mentions. By reading the youth policy one wonders how we can achieve such a humongous task with no discussion of monetary transaction! It needs to give guidelines for budgetary allocation for not only for plans related to the education but also for various youth club it mentions which are required to bring together the youth from diverse background to mainstream. The youth club it mentions has no resources and it is difficult to even imagine how they can take care of tasks related to the youth across the country.

Towards the conclusion of the policy, you see a few mathematical equations being solved only to realise that it is Youth Development Index, YDI, which is based on the model of Human Development Index, HDI, with a few new components in order to cater to the needs of the youth. There is no way one can comment on the YDI as there is still time for it to prove its consequences. It aims at providing data to central government, different state governments and civil societies ‘to ascertain the status of youth vis-à-vis the systemic dimensions which influence their growth and empowerment’. The statistical equations are, it seems, too broad and generic in nature to give a clear picture of the development of youth pan India.

All this help us to analyse that the focus of NYP 2012 is quite defocused and there is an urgent need to rectify it. It becomes important to understand that there is a need of inclusion of civil bodies in the policy making process. By civil bodies I mean people who have worked hard with the youth of the country in different sectors. There can be sub-policies for the three age brackets NYP 2012 suggests. Accordingly different civil bodies need to work with respective age brackets. For instance, the age bracket of 16 to 21 years requires experts from secondary and higher secondary education background. Similarly the age brackets of 21 to 25 years and 26 to 30 years will require experts from University education, skill development sector and other relevant bodies who have been associated with the concerned youth for a long time.

A better system and society for youth of the nation will ensure a better future of the country. It is an urgent need for intervention by people of the country so that we have practical/implementable policies with better implementation strategies.

Post By: Nihal Parashar

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Being a 24 year old Woman Social Entrepreneur in India

The Beginning

In 2010, during one of my corporate film shoots in Delhi, I had come across a woman in a slum. She had six daughters and was trying to send one of them (who was 8-year-old) to the area known for prostitution. It was poverty that demanded this sacrifice, in order to feed five others. She was also pregnant. When I asked her, what about the little life breathing inside her, she had said, ‘If it is a girl again this time, I will strangle her the minute she is born.’

I remember; everything had changed for me after that incidence.  I was turning 24 then.

Within 45 minutes, I decided to start a creative arts school for the sexually abused girls (even by their fathers in a nearby slum) in the area. I didn’t know about changing the world or zilch about the non-profit sector, but I could “at least start”. Thus, Protsahan India Foundation was born as a one-room creative arts centre for educating the girl child in the ghettos. Within a month, we got the organisation registered with the Govt. of India.

Now, each day as I walk past those slums in Delhi, it saddens me to see hundreds of neglected children, most without mothers, some sexually abused by their fathers, women who don’t understand the concept of sanitary napkins.   

Start Up Challenges at Protsahan

It took me 8 months to decide on using arts as a curriculum for creative design based education.  Rote learning/school education solely would have never made sense to a child raised in the street.

Today, when The World Bank, United Nations, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Indian Television Academy, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Australia India Youth Dialog and other organisations of national and international repute recognise us, we feel proud and see it as a beginning. The only thing that worked in my favour was conviction.

Evolution, Innovation and Growth

Our sole mission is to encourage creative education and skills development through creative design thinking approaches for at-risk/abused/special children for whom it could always be only a dream. So, we started using simple techniques, but with a difference. For example:

  • We made a traditional Indian art form to be recreated using coffee powder for special and autistic children.
  • We used creativity and design to work with survivors of trafficking and abuse.
  • We used scrabble to teach them English, cartoons and photographs to keep the interests alive, game and art based education, digital storytelling to make teaching a fun process. 

Scale or Empathy?

We want to work with every child, and so obviously I am asked about the scalability and replicability models. It is the process which is unique at Protsahan. Only when you have the learning to deal with one child, all inclusive, can you reach numbers in the right way. We see government schools all over. It’s replicable, right? But, where is the empathy, creativity and connect? I remember, how one social venture capitalist had expressed desire to ‘invest’ in Protsahan, and when we met, the first question he asked me was, what would be the ROI (return on investment) that Protsahan could give him when he ‘invested’ in a sexually abused child. I stood up, paid for my coffee bill and left. I was 25 then.

At the global level, it is highly unlikely that the millennium development goals will be achieved with the clichéd approaches and resting on only what the public sector has to offer. The governments, more often than not, have failed to deliver highly innovative solutions. They however can scale up approaches that work. We are a non-profit organisation and we count our revenue in terms of number of lives we have impacted and transformed for the better. I call it the gross happiness index.

Opportunity Costs?

It takes more than just grit and gumption to get an organisation up with strong fundamentals. It takes humility blended with some assertive passion. It takes missing out on those occasional tea sessions with your retired father, it takes you staring right in the eye of your own vulnerabilities, yet defying the world, getting judged and not being scared of what the world would think, taking decisions which you know are just and fair, unknowingly scaring the men you could date at 24 with your work. It takes too quick a growing up of that girl inside you. It takes learning what detachment truly is, because people come, add a bit to your dream and go. In the end you have: the credits, failures, learnings, laughter, the shirking of those slight tears when you see a young one you taught for 2 years being sexually tortured by her father. At times like those, you know that no matter what, your strength wouldn’t falter and the seeds of encouragement you once had sown would continue to nurture many generations to come.

Post by:Sonal Kapoor

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Conviction: Key to being a Successful Entrepreneur

When I was leaving school, my principal had written in my diary, “You will take the road less travelled and it will make all the difference”.Back then, I was moved to read that line written by her – a line from one of my favourite poems. Today, I understand the essence and significance of those words.

The road less travelled is intriguing, exciting, adventurous, and scary. While there are new discoveries, there is also a ruthless sort of restlessness that pushes you to go on. That, is the source of my energy. There is comfort in simplicity and gratefulness for life.
I have always listened to my heart. Most of the times it guided me right, and some few odd times, it put me in the most difficult of
situations. The decision to start Happy Hands too, was led by the heart, and in five years, I have faced all varieties of situations – difficult,humbling, and most importantly, inspiring.

I started at a time when efforts for reviving crafts was not an advisable (read lucrative) career option, and had little to do with Management- my field of study. With no formal education in Design, I felt myself drawn to the beauty and sheer magic of handcrafting a product. The first question most friends would ask me would be : “…but how will you do it…”. I did not know the answer then, and I do not know it now.
There was no ‘plan A or B or C’ – there was only a conviction, and the determination to change. Friends came forward to help, and I
continued to meet people who are our biggest support systems now. Fundraising was the biggest problem – how would we pay people,rentals..etc. but our artists understood it all too well. They were our initial supporters – we would make products together, and sell them together.

None of this was easy – while new relationships were formed, existing ones were put to test. The one thing about being an entrepreneur is,you realise who your true friends really are – the ones who share the happiness of success are few in number, the ones who understand the risk of failure, even fewer.

There are several choices one is constantly faced with, but being a woman makes it easier – we are naturally inclined towards multitasking.
In the course of running an organisation, I have learnt how to budget, recruit, design, travel on minimal resources, and how to function with no sleep, but occasional dreams. By most importantly, I have learnt about people and their traditions or cultures; I have learnt patience, and I have grown – not just as an entrepreneur but as a human being. It’s not crafts that I work to restore – I work to bring back the dignity in the
life of a craftsman/artist. I seek to enable our own countrymen to recognise and include the traditional arts of our nation into their lives, so craft can thrive again – so artists can feel ‘wanted’ again.
Time has played a strange game of sorts. While we have moved on to better technology, infrastructure and opportunities, our villages (most of them) remain without any proper access to Internet services even!

Today we have a larger team, and our programs and impact have only increased over the years. We have always been an all-girls
organisation. Not by plan, of course! We learnt to lift our own cartons, and manage our logistics. Yes, our parents have stayed up nights waiting for us, but we ourselves were never concerned about our safety. Somehow, work always came first.
It is the small experiences which have made us who we are – we continue to struggle, laugh at our mistakes, and then make some more.

Today, in retrospect, I am thankful to the people who supported us, and also to those who didn’t because they taught us some very
important lessons. The struggle continues, as does the madness – and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Post by: Medhavi Gandhi

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Women Social Entrepreneurs and their Struggle

“Social Entrepreneurs act as agents of change in society, creating interventions for betterment of society and women play a key role in the whole process. While gender differences might come into play where the magnitude and scale of enterprise is concerned, this is by no means an index of the success  of the enterprise. Women entrepreneurs are equally successful and create big impact on society.

‘Skills for Social Enterprise’ is one of the key areas that British Council India is keen to embark upon. The Council has long showcased best of UK innovation and creativity in diverse areas through its programmes. What is now required is to inspire, support and develop next generation of women social entrepreneurs and through their systems and products, deliver wider benefits to the society. This week through Youth ki Awaaz, our partner in this campaign, we will focus on key challenges  that young social entrepreneurs specifically women face in their journey…..”- Dr. G.S. Gujral, Head- Society (India), British Council.

Enterprise gains stage in strange ways. A guy who can’t afford a tea stall sets up a kettle and a dozen cups in the space that is a wall crack. Youngsters who can’t voice their opinions in the mainstream take up blogging, social networking and uploading their own videos. All it takes is courage and conviction, you’d think?

Easier said than done, though. If how you were and what you did were the only determinants to your success, no diligent student would ever sit down and cry with a paltry 85 per cent in his boards, no dancer would ever impair his limbs and no chef would ever burn his best tested recipe. There is a lot more to success that has to do with your destiny, the pressures around you, your lifestyle and circumstances, and the attitudes and mindsets you have to deal with in the race for that red ribbon.

Women social entrepreneurs around us are much lesser in number than one would wish for. Start ups are anyway a risky business idea. And women, most people think, are not meant for adventure. Theirs is the comfortable space, homemade snacks; teaching or embroidery classes are as ambitious as they can get about ‘doing their own thing’. Going beyond those would make men in their lives uncomfortable. It seems they are only well-suited for the parties and wedding, taking care of children and nursing their wounds. It is assumed that other things in her life can wait.

The firm strides women take towards empowering themselves are testimony to an evolving society at the heart of which are strongly unchanging, unwavering prejudices. Most jobs, including corporate ones, have a strong male bias and are structured to eulogise men and their superior status. A woman has to struggle twice as much to make it big in the same space. The frequent long working hours, the workload and the stress that often get to one are not considered a woman’s cup of tea.

As deep as we may search for answers to this, there is pretty much only one underlying reason. Our patriarchal system may give a woman the liberty to follow her dreams, but not the space to chase them. Unfortunately, there is nothing to keep her motivated. Top positions in corporate spaces are reserved for men (or so it seems). She isn’t seen as a leader or a role model. Also, most don’t like working under a woman boss, especially men whose ego would get bruised beyond imagination.

We don’t see too many women entrepreneurs, or at least, too many successful women entrepreneurs because somewhere while chasing their dreams, they’re pulled back and made to fulfil her duties even before she can get her plan to be a successful social entrepreneur in place. Work is always secondary, and when it happens, a woman is made to feel like it’s some rare gift she’s been blessed with. It is not banal, normal or even acceptable. It is not done when she starts to or desires to give it as much time and attention as her home and family.

The fact that apart from men, most women today themselves look down on other women who seem ‘too big for their boots’ is proof enough of the mindsets we grapple with.

Not that women haven’t already done it, but it would take a lot more women with passion and conviction to change this. From education to voting rights, we got it all for ourselves. We’ve always been multitaskers; we just need to fight a little harder to make our place. Remember: it’s never too late.

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Is It Tough To Be A Young Entrepreneur?

As an 18-year-old, Ritesh dropped out of college to focus on his startup. Amongst many challenges he faced, from deciding to drop out, to living away from his parents in a city nearly 12,000 kms away from his, he had to make tough choices early on. His courage and determination to start up and become a successful entrepreneur were unshaken, and I remember, every time I would meet him, he would be budding with some new idea to scale up his hospitality startup super fast. Soon after realising that he needed more funding, he also realised that investors doubted him for his age. They doubted him for the challenging decision he took of dropping out, and was made to face hardships in proving himself.

I remember going through a similar journey myself, starting out when I was 17. Walking into plush corporate offices and institutions, and being told that I was just a kid who they did not want to entertain or could not trust was not an end to my turbulent start. I was made fun of and told that my business idea was too naive. I remember a CEO of a reputed mobile company questioning my intentions as he believed that at 18, all that an Indian teenager with a business idea like mine wanted was to get rich quick.

India’s demography puts us in a brilliant spot. With over 60 per cent population falling in the bracket of youth, it gives us immense opportunity to follow our dreams and quite literally, reform the democracy with our ideas and passion. But ironically, this is the very demography that does not have a support systems in place to allow them to follow their entrepreneurial dreams. The lack of will to invest in young people, and being constantly told to follow safe career options, cripple the desire of young people to become enterprise leaders. As a young entrepreneur, you will hardly find people ready to invest in your idea or your vision, or give you any credibility for your work and efforts. Constructive criticism is one thing, discouraging is another, and many a times, discouragement was what I had to go through for the first four years of my journey as a young entrepreneur.

While Silicon Valley has a support system, and respect for entrepreneurs who follow their passion, the Indian enterprise ecosystem leaves very little or no space for a young person to pursue their entrepreneurial venture full time with support. There is immense family pressure to take up conventional careers and stay in the safer circle.

The need of the hour is to create better ecosystem for young people in India, allow more government backing and create stronger, more innovative incubation centers, which help the entrepreneur scale up, sustain and create great businesses that power our economy. Moreover, there is an immediate need for the society to embrace failure and treat it like an experience that was enriching in many ways. We need to be told to take risks, fail, learn, get ourselves back up and try again.

Ritesh had to struggle for a few years but his courage sailed him through. His startup is now a funded company, and he just became the first Indian to win the Thiel Fellowship of $1,00,000. We need better systems in place to make the journey as beautiful for every teenage entrepreneur.

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Myths about Quality Education in India

Myth 1: A change in teacher-student ratio will increase quality education 

Right to Education Act (RTE) aims for an ideal pupil-teacher ratio of 30:1 for primary level and 35:1 for upper-primary level. But, the current ratio of 49:1 for primary level and 59:1 for upper-primary level statistically shames us and remains a severe problem in Uttar Pradesh schools. The ratio in Chandigarh reaches to a whooping 80:1.

Interestingly, studies show no correlation between teacher-student ratio and quality education. Also, teaching is not regarded as a preferred career option. So, a simple way of generate interest in teaching is to raise the income of teachers to create meaningful economic opportunities.

To improve learning inputs for qualitative education, here are a few cost-efficient strategies:

Increasing teacher’s incentives: 

This remains a government versus teacher propaganda. Consider a system that equates a teacher’s pay to his or her student’s attendance. The method remains fair to both the parties as teachers individually attempt to address each pupil and understand their ability. There isn’t a necessary track-down over individual teaching skills as it remains evident in pupil’s attendance.

Teaching according to a child’s ability:

Grouping students according to their ability and not by class or age have experimentally proven that a student’s learning improves impressively. This implementation needs patience, understanding and tolerance.

Volunteering for educational programs:

Volunteering during non-teaching hours for educational initiatives like field trips, research on curriculum been taught and summer camps are pure sources of effective increase in quality education. Recognition over participation and volunteerism is in abundance within local societies.

Myth 2: Physical structure increases quality education

Recent statistics provided by the Voice of People, an organisation working on RTE which conducted a survey on 255 schools covering 18 districts, shows that:

  • only 9 per cent of the upper primary schools have proper furniture
  • merely 8 per cent schools have a separate room for library
  • more than 50 per cent of the schools have no proper usable toilets. 9 per cent have no toilet facilities.
  • 38 per cent of schools have no boundary fencing while 9 per cent of them have damaged boundary walls.

Many other shocking statistical data denotes poor physical infrastructure of the common patshaala in India. But an improvement in such physical structure too has shown no correlation to the betterment of education output. Here is one strategic method with regard to improvement in physical structure which surely increases not only quality education but is also an efficient way to manage physical infrastructure.

The minimum required classroom area is about 300 square feet but in case of smaller classrooms which still exist in India, here is a technical formula:

PTR (Pupil Tutor Ratio) = (Area of the classroom in square feet-60/8)

This also highlights the futile emphasis on decreasing the PTR, and proves a relative relation between the size of a classroom and PTR. Such an initiative has been adapted by the Gujarat RTE and has done wonders. Technical methods such as these which attack the crucial core of the problem and not the external physical significance are cost-efficient as well as very simple to implement.

Myth 3: How about implementing some more initiatives?

The Midday Meal Scheme is currently implemented in almost 85.6 per cent schools but the scheme remains one of the most corrupt malpractices in India. A simple solution is that the quality of food under the MDM scheme must be checked on the spot and a detailed report regarding the lack of content must be submitted at the earliest.

The MDM scheme is an impressive initiative to widen the educational structure and surely has significant benefits in acting as a ‘supplementary nutrition’ for children. However, another problem within this scheme is that, most of the school activities exist before lunch time. So, MDM may not really feature itself to be ‘nutrition’ for learning students.

Solution:

  • Provide beneficial nutrition in the morning before students engage in their school activities for the day.

IIT Madras on monitoring this scheme has provided a notable quote, “one fruit and one glass of milk for every child every day.”

Implementations of initiatives aren’t necessary, but improvising the existing ones using low-cost and effective methodology will provide a better path towards quality education. Being one of the largest providers for elementary education, RTE fails to deliver quality education. Once the improvements are made, we can move ahead and implement extra-curriculum, ‘going beyond the usual textbook’ debate, vocational training and guidance.

Education is the stem that reaches every part of the nation’s output, be it societal changes or economic growth. As the saying goes, Padega India, tabhi toh badega India! 

 

 

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Need for Better Educational Services and Policies

“But Where Is The Education?” [Part 1]

In today’s India, ‘education delivered’’ continues to remain a national crisis. The curriculum of education is still more theoretical than knowledgeable, thus failing to increase qualitative technical skills for the industrial sector. This inversely proves to be a reason for the lack of investment on human capital in India. Cost-effective methods for student learning have never come into thought and we continue to face extremely poor policies, increased rate in the number of drop outs and leniency in enforcement of Right to Education Act, 2009. The question which arises is, Where have we really gone wrong?”

Quality Education: According to the 2011 census, we may have almost reached the threshold literacy rate of 74.04 per cent due to the implementation of free and compulsory education, but yet, institutes across the nation fail to obey some of the many norms prescribed by the Right to Education Act. Moreover, questions have been raised about implementing ‘Right to Learn’ over ‘Right to Education’ since the RTE norms fail to mention a single point regarding ‘learning’ which is the crux of the entire issue.

A prophecy regarding the so-called ‘quality education’ in India, is that statistically it does no good. Quality education is a socio-economic boon, a justified postulate. Lack of quality education leads to deficiency of skilled labour in the industrial sector and eventually diminishes the economic output. This is purely evident in India as 83 per cent of the total working population for the construction industry remains unskilled. But at the same time, labour in India is low in both quality and capital.

Let us question “What are we really learning?” rather than “How many are we educating?”

At the Indian level, 52 per cent of Class V students are unable to read a Class II textbook whereas 72 per cent of them are unable to do basic arithmetic division. Also, a teacher’s duty today revolves more around ‘punctuality’ and ‘attendance’ of a student rather than his or her achievements. Mere aim to complete the syllabus has now turned into a priority.

With the rise in number of private schools and institutes, education has turned into a thriving business. Students of the elite and middle class families successfully avail seats, leaving behind students from poor sections of the society who fail to meet the needs for quality education at local schools. Now the myth revolving around quality education is that it is only to be found in private institutions. This continues to remain a hoax since private institutions deliver a mere gain with respect to quality. The truth enlightens us when studies reveal that on comparison of test scores between public and private institutes; only a marginal difference exists.

Yet, lack of quality education has raised another deeper subject. Parents today enforce children to join coaching institutes and private tuition’s which eventually turn to be ‘supplements’ for quality education. However, educationalists fear that private tutoring has turned into an alternative to institutional schools. This was clearly evident in Bengal recently where nearly 73 per cent of the students took recourse to tuitions instead of schools. The RTE Act prohibits teachers from conducting private tuitions but no initiatives have been undertaken to track down these teachers who abide against the law. RTE also fails to meet the norms required for minimum’ quality education for any school. The need for norms over such a grave issue which serves as the main source for entire educational output is a must.

In the upcoming articles of this series, we will discuss the myths revolving around quality education in India.

Post By :

Achilles Rasquinha

 

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Crying Out For Help: Need For Education Reforms At The Local Level

They say the future of a country is in the hands of the youth and it stands true as it is their skills, thinking and motivation which eventually decide a nation’s fate. But how well have we been ensuring that they get the best opportunities? Looking around us, can we say that the education system we are so comfortable with has resulted in pure growth and innovative leaders?

Let the statistics speak.

Even though India has invested a lot in the education sector, 25  per cent of the masses are still illiterate. Only 15 per cent of students reach high school, whilst only 7 per cent graduate. Such abysmal figures show a high dropout rate. One wonders why it is so. Do they realise that education is not their need? Or are the reasons financial? One needs to dive deep into the issues which plague our education sector.

Since times immemorial teaching has been considered a revered profession. One could cite the example of Dronacharya, a knowledgeable guru who was deeply respected by kings and Gods. However, shifting focus to the present, circumstances have highly deteriorated. Quality and quantity of teachers is on an all-time low. Nationwide, 36 per cent of teaching positions are vacant. Student-teacher ratios are above (1:46 in primary schools and 1:59 in upper primary schools) the ideal ratio (1:30 and 1:35 respectively). Difficulties arise in students getting proper individual attention. Out of the positions that are actually filled, 13 per cent choose to stay absent. The obvious solution is strict rules to be maintained by the institutions. But sadly, hardly any of them ever dismiss a teacher for such unprofessionalism.  Also, many of our private schools have untrained, incompetent teachers and some with false certificates too. At the college level, 57 per cent of college professors lack either a master’s or a PhD. The situation is definitely getting worse as 99 per cent aspirants failed to clear TET (Teacher Eligibility Test) in 2012, compared to 90 per cent in 2010. This is even below the “chalta hai” attitude we are so dearly attached to.

The quality of education doesn’t stand far from teaching on the rating scale. 80 per cent of our schools are government funded, making the government a major provider of our education. Even so, the poorest of families prefer their children to attend (relatively) expensive public schools rather than go to government schools where education is for free.

The centre of our education has always been rote learning. We teach our students to be moral, ideal, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect in our education methods. Students hardly develop a deep understanding of what they are studying. Any attempts to clarify doubts or raise questions are met with prompt rejections. Encouraging free thinking is not focused upon and stands reflected in our culture as well. The curriculum is outdated. Students are shown two roads: engineering and doctor, none of which might be the passion for many. They end up getting frustrated with the rat race, but that’s another topic altogether.

Students cram terms and lessons, to be forgotten as soon as the exams end. What’s the point of wasting money, just to rote learn without understanding them? Doesn’t this squash the critical thinking in due course? To get a job- which is enough, some might say. And this statement just proves how much reform our schooling system is in a dire need of. Studies showed that over half of 10-year-old rural children could not read at a basic level; over 60 per cent were unable to do division, and 50 per cent dropped out by the age of 14.

On a positive note, the numbers of educational institutions are on an increasing slope, but still 95 per cent of them don’t compete with RTE standards for infrastructure. To spend 8 hours or more in a certain place, proper facilities are required such as a separate toilet for girls and boys, a playground, a library with enough reading material, electricity, ramp access for disabled children and computers.

One can only progress when one properly utilises resources available to him/her. But what do you do when they don’t exist? India however doesn’t face a lack of resources (have a look at the staggering population statistics). If only we could render them useful. Educational policies can’t be effective if the base they are building it up on is weak. RTE has been a huge relief but no substantial benefits have resulted yet.

Our two primary challenges are to revise our outdated curriculum and sync it with the industry’s needs; to train our faculty, so that they have knowledge to teach skills and are continuously motivated to innovate. Schools need to stop being so reticent and start taking initiatives. Parents (especially in rural areas) need to be motivated to send their children to school, which can be done if government schools give positive results. Guidelines should be strictly followed, ensuring stringent punishment for those who don’t. Well-read adults could work part time in NGOs providing schooling. Unqualified teachers shouldn’t be hired just to fill vacant seats.

More than anything else, the citizens need to stop acting blind to this chaos of an education and participate actively in ensuring that our young stars get a chance to truly shine.

Post By : Riya Rana

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Skill Development Initiatives

India is a remarkably young country with an average age of 28 years. 65% of the population is below 35yrs of age. We have a demographic advantage of having 540 million young people which in turn implies that we need dynamic and productive workforce for the next 40 years when the other nations including China are aging”- Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor

The biggest concern of our leaders since the past two five year plans has been ‘inclusive growth’ and ‘sustainable development’. With less that 1000 days left for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals target in attaining ‘poverty alleviation’ merely providing incentives and subsidies will not help; providing training of green skills and employment opportunities in different sectors will. The wide gap between the rich and poor can be well attended by bridging the urban-rural gap.  The urban biased education shall be well countered with equal effort in upgrading the skills of labour market from the grass-root level. Demand for skilled workforce in the market is increasing whereas many labourers at rural level are unable to compete due to low and outdated skills. Also the current education system is incapable of meeting the demand requirements of the Industry. The government has announced the invitations of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country which promise at least 10 million jobs. A skill labour force is required to fill the titanic vacuum.

Keeping in mind the demographic trend of our country, i.e. a working population between the age of 15 and 59 years, the government had launched a National Skill Development Mission. A National Skill Development Corporation Board (NSDCB) and Prime Minister’s National Skill Development Council was established. A special budget was allocated in the financial years 2011-12 and 2012-13 setting up a target to shape 500 million labour force by 2022. On 9 May 2013, the government had approved the setting up of an autonomous body called National Skill Development Agency. The National Skill Development Council (NSDC) has recognised around 21 departments to impart training in both organised and unorganised sectors. These include automobiles, electronic hardware, textiles and garments, leather and leather goods, building and construction, food processing, handlooms and handicrafts, media, banking and financial sector etc. The candidates acquiring skills and Industrial Training Institute (ITI) graduates are given certification which is internationally recognised.

The government has invested in bringing in the required machinery and infrastructure for training. In order to implement the mission, the centre has entered into a first ever Public-Private-Private partnership. The funds for training purpose shall be complemented by private funding. Government promotes training and various companies have come forward as an initiative of Corporate Social Responsibility. Examples of private sector companies contributing skill development initiative are Tata Motors, who helped in upgrading technical training institutes, IL&FS education in a joint venture with NSDC to build and manage 100 multi skill schools across India, Bharati-Walmart had launched a training centre in Karnataka which trains 100 candidates every month and make them eligible for employment in retail sector.

The most inclusive form of skill development training is proving a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at every level. The targets group for this program would be school dropouts at village level. By 2012, it was estimated that there are 57 millions school dropouts or illiterates. SC/STs constitute to about 28 per cent of the learners. There are about 68 per cent women learners and male contribute to about 53 per cent of school dropouts.

There are hundreds of vocational training centres per state across the nation each with their set of methods and policies. Gujarat- The Gujarat Skill Development Mission (GSDM) has introduced the procedure of vouchers. Anybody can purchase these vouchers and join training in any sector. After the course ends they will be assessed. In case the candidate fails the test the cost of training shall be refunded. Rajasthan- Gujarat launched a scheme in 2007 to expand the TVET system in lagging areas- Lagging districts, lagging sub-divisions and lagging blocks, Under this scheme the state government provides incentives for private companies to setup technical institutes.

The international associations of vocational and technical training are with International labour organisation, World Bank and European Union which give important advice to the government and provide necessary funds. The World Bank had planned to fund the skill development initiative of India with an initial amount of 480 million dollar.

Investing in skill development helps in attaining socio-economic empowerment of rural women. There is always a limited scope for women and girls in rural areas to develop their skills in a male-dominated industry due to social, economic and cultural constraints and with lower wage payments. Offering women extension services, technical training, stimulating basic education and gender sensitive approaches and support by NGOs and Self help groups can improve their condition.

Despite various investments in shaping a huge labour force there are grave drawbacks the system. Shifting of labour from farm to non-farm sector is a major concern, the number of entrants in the non-farm sector is only increasing every year. Farm based jobs have remained stagnant and there is an uneven growth in skill training provided in sectors such as retail, customer services etc. Meeting the training requirement of such large workforce has remained a challenge. The PPP model adopted by the government only led to delays in decision-making regarding staffing and course fee. The ITIs dominate vocational training centres. There are only 11 ITI centres in the country for women. The government is investing a lot in training costs and infrastructure, but unfortunately this is not yielding in creation of robust workforce for the industry. The under quality of training programme offered and lack of interest by the private partners is a major disadvantage. The local government plays an important role in finding the rightful and needy youth to train. The power of the community in the local government should be integrated to achieve this.

Our education system requires a renovation and restructuring. The curriculum for professional courses such as Engineering and MBA shall be prescribed in a way such that it makes students industry ready. The youth today hold mere degrees but lack the expertise to compete and fit in the industry as per the demand. Vocational training shall be provided right from high school. The CSR initiative companies shall be offered high incentives so that they show enthusiasm in upgrading the skills of the candidates. The best solution is to entirely privatise the skill development program and upgrade the quality of training. Technical skills alone will not fetch opportunities, soft skills training shall also be offered in parallel. Upon addressing these issues India will be ready to produce 500 million skilled labourers at par with global standards eventually helping us realise sustainable growth and development in the economy.

Post by: Mahitha Kasireddi

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